Urban Myths: The Paperless Office

By Anthony Macciola posted 08-13-2010 13:08


Whatever happened to the paperless office? For many years now, the term “paperless office” has been touted as the future of a typical business environment (i.e., “someday there will be no paper…”). Well, it seems that “someday” has come and gone.

As it turns out, there has been a lot of subtle activity going on in the capture world over the past couple of years that has had the net effect of inching us along the way to the ultimate paperless office. Before we go into some of those specific areas, I thought it would be good to address the paperless office urban myth once and for all.

It’s never going to fully be realized, at least not in my lifetime. As you architect your enterprise capture strategy, you need to keep one underlying premise in mind: It’s a hybrid world and your business environment is a hybrid environment. A “one size fits all” mentality is likely to get you into serious trouble, and quickly.

Let me explain what I mean when I reference a hybrid environment. If you were to do an audit of a given business process, you’d likely find that (in general) content pertaining to the execution of the business process comes into your organization in a variety of different ways.

Let’s use a document-centric process that most people should be familiar with; accounts payable and, specifically, invoices. It’s not uncommon any given enterprise to have accounts payable-related transaction content coming into their enterprise in a variety of different forms. Let’s use a live example. One of our customers processes over 20 thousand invoices a month. The top five percent of those invoices come in electronically (i.e., as EDI or XML), 30 percent come in via fax and another 35 percent via email as PDF, Excel, or Word attachments. The remaining 30 percent may arrive via “snail mail” into the mailroom.

The customer had multiple solutions deployed to handle each sort of inbound medium. In a perfect world, they’d have all their customers move to one common electronic model but they know the effort required to shift their supplier base from their existing way of doing business would be cost-prohibitive (they may have tried this route through multiple attempts in the past).

Having learned their lesson, they decided the most cost-effective way to address their problem was to implement a single cost-effective capture strategy and/or that could accommodate the myriad of ways content comes into their organization. Once implemented, they really don’t care at what pace the paper vs. electronic shift occurs. They can establish a single framework for abstracting the on boarding of business content; they can normalize it; and they can understand what it is and can extract the appropriate metadata before sending the content on to their enterprise infrastructure.

In my next entry, we’ll talk about the growing desire to truncate paper as quickly in the process as possible and the benefits you can derive from moving capture from the end of a business process to the beginning. Stay tuned…

#paperless #ScanningandCapture #accountspayable